For three weeks, I’ve been preparing. I’m still not ready. The big morning will arrive and by that time, I’ll have done all I could do. I will learn whether or not the choices I made hit the bull’s eye of the heart, or skimmed the edge and deflected, landing in the dirt of another foolish gift idea. Shopping for gifts for loved ones is hard in a way that shouldn’t be. Don’t I know my family? Am I not fully aware of their likes and loves and passions? The trouble with shopping for gifts is that in December manufacturers, inventors and merchants blast us with the latest novelties, stuff that has nothing to do with the complicated and unique individual. If the perfect gift is out there, I never make enough time to search every store or browse hundreds of webpages. I end up in a mess of anxiety days before Christmas wondering what to do.
Perhaps the best material things are the kind that help wake up the spirit inside, like something to create and share. Or a handmade gift from the heart. Something I need to be thinking about and preparing for months instead of days.
Every year, my husband asks for the same gifts. He always wants socks and underwear. He never asks for anything else, except for a bottle of cologne.
Yet, I know there are things he would love to experience or enjoy, but because we are strict with our budget, he would be angry if I went into debt for the holidays. So I behave. I keep it simple. But I know that just like me, he would enjoy a fun surprise that distracts him from the everyday grind. Something unrelated to home repairs and projects.
I appreciate that my guy is humble and practical. I used to be jealous and frustrated with his non-magical-fantastical dreams on Christmas morning. If he has secret wishes, he doesn’t let on. Meanwhile, I go around asking for the entirely un-practical, like a big fluffy cat or roller skates. I’m forty-three and on Christmas morning, I love gifts that nurture and celebrate the inner child. Since I did get my big fluffy kitty cat and a nice pair of skates earlier this season, My husband is now struggling with the same dilemma. I reminded him that I already received so many gifts this year, like tickets to see Paul McCartney. I couldn’t help him with a list, except to say I love Soapworks’ Lemon Verbena bath bar at the Dollar Tree.
The truth is that I have everything I could ever want. A loving family, a beautiful home, a lovely region to live in with a fantastic community. My brother is coming during the holidays and this is a huge and exciting gift, something that makes our house full of energy and anticipation. I should be riding the wings of these sustaining happy thoughts, but I also know I need to finish my dreaded gift shopping. This is annoying and bothersome. It means I have to make choices based on assumptions and guesses and take risks with funds.
But since I’m not supposed to be stressing myself out for health reasons, I noticed that this annoying anxiety is a choice. I can decide to feel grumbly and cruddy about going out in public with my dwindling funds and pray for a miracle that it will be enough, OR I can let that feeling slide away. I can remember to practice gratitude.
And just as I began to feel grateful and happy to experience all the blessings and the joy, I received an unexpected gift; a mature gift to grow on that I didn’t even know I was asking for.
Last night while Christmas shopping, I encountered a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She was sitting at a table in Barnes and Noble providing free gift wrapping services. There was another woman next to her, sitting behind a sign that read “Free Gift Wrapping: Writer’s Group of the Triad.” I spoke with my friend for a while, amazed and delighted that she remembered me, then happily walked away.
As I headed to the stacks, the handwritten sign at the table popped into my head, blocking out the titles on the shelf: “Writer’s Group of the Triad.” Like recognizing wholesome, nutritious—but untasted by me— food in the supermarket, I reached for courage and decided: this will be good for me. It might even taste good. It might sustain me in a way that I can’t provide for myself alone. Pulled by an unseen force, I bravely decided to out myself as a wannabe, and turned back to ask about the group.
Later I wondered, “am I really and truly serious about writing?” while tucking the scrap of Christmas paper with my friend’s number into my floppy corduroy bag. Perhaps I am not as serious as many writers, but maybe I am ready enough to try just a little bit harder. Maybe I’m ready enough. And maybe my husband will receive a perfect gift too, one that comes from the Spirit that had nothing to do with me.
This is what I hope. Just in case, I’m saving all receipts.